As the United States steps up its rhetoric over Iran, Russia has defended the nation saying it is certain Tehran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon. Washington fears Iran could be using Russian know-how to secretly construct an atomic weapon.But at a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiatior, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear he was not backing down. “The latest steps by Iran convince Russia that Iran indeed does not intend to produce nuclear weapons and we will continue to develop relations in all sectors, including peaceful atomic energy,” he said. “We hope Iran will strictly stick to all agreements with Russia or the international community.” Russia is building Iran’s only nuclear power plant that is due to start up at the end of 2005. And, further going against Washington’s wishes, Moscow is to sign a deal with Tehran next week to start nuclear fuel shipments to the reactor.